Upright Man is a New York City-based rock band who released their debut self-titled album yesterday August 18, 2017. And after just one listen through of Upright Man, I must unequivocally state that it’s magnificent. Poetic lyrics are paired with bold instrumentals and soaring harmonic vocals to create ten stellar tracks that elicit strong feelings for the listener (they certainly did for me). The album was flawlessly produced by Marc Copely (Roseanne Cash, B.B. King, Billy Squire) and Zev Katz (Jeff Beck, Hall & Oates, Aretha Franklin), and engineered by Bruce Sugar (Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh) at Avatar Studios and Sear Sound in NYC, and at Blackbird Studios in Nashville.
But the creative minds and musical talent behind all this fantastic music are Aidan Dolan (guitar/vocals), Nick Katz (bass/vocals), and Max Yassky (drums/percussion/backing vocals). The guys met while studying classical music composition at New York University, where they played together on various projects ranging from classical ensembles to rock bands. Their strong chemistry ultimately led them to form Upright Man. Influenced by some of their favorite bands like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Crowded House, Little Feat, Led Zeppelin and XTC, they combine elements of alternative, psychedelic, roots rock and classic rock with complex harmonies and melodies to create their own unique sound.
Aidan explains, “Our different musical backgrounds make for an explosive chemical reaction that creates something none of us would have alone.” Nick adds, “We have an intense compulsion to write songs together, and do so constantly.” “Our goal is to write great songs, play genuine music and share it with the world,” says Max.
We’re introduced to Upright Man with the sweeping opening track “Elysia.” The song is melodic rock candy, with layered jangly guitars, sharp percussion, brilliant keyboards and captivating vocals. In fact, their colorful instrumentation and harmonic vocals are a defining element of the band’s wonderful sound, also beautifully demonstrated on the next track “Agorognostic.”
“Say What You Mean” really shows what these guys can do, with complex rhythmic change-ups that go from calm, strummed guitar one minute to fierce guitar riffs accompanied by a cascade of crashing cymbals the next. Aidan snarls: “Is it what you really want? Was it what you really want? Is it everything you want?/ Everybody cares what you think. But nobody cares what you think.”
The title track “Upright Man” is a terrific post-grunge rock song with a hypnotic beat, fantastic gritty riffs and Nick’s assertive buzzing bass. The guys’ vocals are in perfect harmony as they sing: “Cities built on soot and ash. Follow the fate of those who’ve past. It was the dream of an upright man to be loved. I fell down from the sky to become up on high. Then Aidan wails: “So tell me why won’t you stand with me. Baby tell me you love me. I don’t need the truth. I just need you.” The down-tempo “Ecstasy” offers up moody synths and mellow vocals, punctuated by flourishes of electric guitar and crashing cymbals that reach a crescendo before ending in a reverb-heavy haze.
Keyboards take center stage on the stunning “Three Easy Pieces,” a standout track and my favorite on the album. The combination of lush piano, delicate synths, electric guitar, gentle percussion and the guys’ lovely harmonizing vocals are positively gorgeous, creating a dreamy soundscape. Aidan’s vocals are sublime as he sings: “The TV said I need a life. Ain’t I livin’ life? You can’t live on porcelain and wine. When you’re hungry you’ll find what you need.”
Another favorite is “Alaska,” a languid, rather melancholy song about searching for one’s place in the world, but not quite getting there: “Got a tattoo says ‘Alaska’ but I’ve never been. 20 questions I could ask you but I’ll never win. Oh I just get so cold. Hold me darling, deliver me from shivering.” As to now be an accepted fact, the instrumentals and vocals are mesmerizing.
The guys dial up the energy on “Designer Mind” and “Animals.” Both are great rock tracks with assertive percussion, strong, gravelly bass and dynamic, multi-textured guitar work. Album closer “Checked Out” delivers a captivating melody and incredible layered instrumentals, including keys, intricate guitars, crisp percussion, sweeping synths and Aidan’s smooth vocals. This is another standout track that proves without doubt that Upright Man is an exceptionally talented collective. They’ve got a brilliant debut album on their hands, and it should be in yours.